Castle Peak 100 k Briefing with Donner Party Mountain Runners

This trip took me into Verdi, Nevada to stay with friends and then back to Truckee to meet with Lesley and Helen of the Donner Party Mountain Runners, my trail running club. Since I am not able to run 65 miles in one day at my present level of fitness, I wanted to volunteer my help and support for my fellow running club friends. Our event, the Castle Peak 100k, will be held on Saturday, August 29th. (You can find out all the particulars of the event, including route map, length, elevation gain and location of aid stations on the Castle Peak 100k website.)

The finish line for the race ends at Donner Memorial State Park, near Donner Lake. A memorial at the east end of the park is dedicated to the Donner Party that lost many lives, snowbound in Donner/Truckee from November 1846 to February 1847. Hence, the origin of the motto of the Donner Party Mountain Runners – “…FACING THE BRUNT OF FATE; INDOMITABLE, — UNAFRAID.”

No trip to Truckee would be complete without stopping off at my favorite candy store, Mountain Hardware and Sports, the Ace Hardware store on Donner Pass Rd. If I had the money, I’m sure I would not leave there every day of the week without spending at least $300. It has everything you need, and everything you don’t need, but it all looks so good you just got to have it. When I ever get around to decorating my new place up in Truckee someday, this is where I’m going to buy all the things to furnish my house. My dream is to make it look like a trapper’s cabin, but upscale.

Ok, let’s get outside and get some air. I grabbed some fruit and yogurt at Safeway and headed down to Truckee Regional Park to lay out on the grass under the sun and enjoy the beautiful day. The park is just south of downtown Truckee on Brockway Road. There are tennis courts, a baseball diamond, BBQ’s and public bathrooms all at the park. A walk along the access road toward the Truckee River brought me to the Truckee Legacy Trail… a 2.6 mile paved pathway along river for biking, jogging or running your dog, and splashing in the river. A small foot bridge, the East River Bridge connects a parking area at the end of East River St. and the Legacy Trail.

Okay, enough fun on the paved trail, not good for my swollen knee… off to meet up with Lesley at Wild Cherries Coffee House in Truckee for a coffee and talk about the race. At this point it looks like I’ll be helping out with parking at Donner Memorial State Park and helping runners get on shuttle buses to the starting line at Stampede Reservoir. I’ll try to help out wherever I can…should be a great weekend, staying at the campground and talking trail stuff with fellow dirt baggers in the club. Any day spent in the mountains is like heaven to me, so I will truly be a “Happy Camper”.

My trip would not have been complete had I not hiked on a trail and rolled around in some dirt, mud and snow before I came home. A short drive south on Interstate 80 to the Donner Summit Rest Area, I began the trail on the east side of the rest stop. This was the Summit Lake Trail that would intersect with the PCT within ½ mile or so. There was some snow along the trail, much of it melting onto the center of the trail, so I had to bushwhack a little bit to avoid getting too muddy. At the trail junction the PCT northbound to the left, Section L, still had some snow patches that I didn’t care to hike over without spikes on my shoes. I already had a bum knee, I did didn’t need to make it any worse. I took these few pictures and decided to call it a day and get back down off the mountain. I’ll be back in a few weeks anyway, hopefully with my knee better off and less snow to negotiate on the trails.

Thanks for following… until then, I’ll see you next time,

Somewhere in the Tahoe Wilderness

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Brockway Summit East Trailhead to Vista Point

Well this one was truly the Mother of all “out and backs”, as I got on the road at 6:30 am and drove to Donner Summit, and didn’t get home until 11:30 pm. This time I decided to take a road less traveled and got off the freeway in Cisco Grove. I haven’t been in Cisco Grove in a little over a year, previously cycling with my fellow Grizzly Peak Cycling club member Brenda. We biked a loop from downtown Truckee to Cisco Grove and back with several side excursions. This time on Donner Pass Road, I followed along the Yuba River along Highway 80, taking my time, unfettered by speeding traffic on the highway. I passed Soda Springs Ski Resort on Donner Pass Road, all but closed up for the season for the lack of snow. This was the gateway to my usual hang-out at Royal Gorge Cross-Country Ski Resort. I am certain that it was closed for the season as well. To the south, I passed the Lake Van Norden, A popular kite skiing area when there is snow. A short ways down the road I came to Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, still in operation, but at the time of this writing on March 19, Sugar Bowl has ultimately thrown in the towel for the season as well. Donner Ski Ranch had closed until next season also. It has been a dismal two years for the ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe/Donner and Truckee area, more so for the resorts in the north.

The views were still spectacular as I drove over Donner Pass Summit, overlooking Donner Lake. A virtually cloudless sky and calm winds added to the gorgeous views of Donner Lake. Walking out on one of the public fishing piers, the lack of water in the lake became increasingly obvious. Pier pilings that should have been underwater were high and dry. Luckily, the clarity of the water was unaffected.

It was close enough to lunch time for me so it was time to head to downtown Truckee, for a bite and some good coffee at the CoffeeBar Truckee. This is one of our favorite hangouts for my trail running club, the Donner Party Mountain Runners. It was a beautiful day and I found a perfect spot on one of the outside tables to enjoy my coffee and gluten-free sandwich. Good stuff.

If you’re coming from out of the area and are not familiar with parking in downtown Old Truckee, a word to the wise. Donner Pass Road, the main drag in town is very crowded and finding a parking spot is next to impossible on weekends. Some of the side streets like Jibboom where the CoffeeBar is located has additional parking, but be sure to purchase parking at one of the Parking Kiosks in town (usually at the street corner) and place the receipt on your dashboard. The open parking spaces are not free. Don’t forget to find the Kiosk and pay for your parking before returning to you car hours later to a parking ticket. OK, nuff said.

Okay now it was time for some trail time. Turning right on Bridge Street from Donner Pass Road will bring you to Highway 267. Turn right at the light and continue south on Highway 267 driving past the Truckee Airport and the Martis Valley on your left and Northstar Ski Resort on your right. Several miles past the Northstar begin the climb up to Brockway Summit, elevation 7,179’. Within the next mile on your right, you will come to a parking area for the Tahoe Rim Trail Brockway Trailhead East and West. Parking is only allowed on the right side of Highway 267 as you’re driving toward Kings Beach, Lake Tahoe. The East trailhead for the Brockway Tahoe Rim Trail is on the other side of the highway. Get there safely as you can.

Once on the forest service access road on the other side of the green barrier, walk to the top of the hill to see the TRT Brockway Trailhead Sign. In the summer season, the Tahoe Rim Trail Association places segment maps at the trailhead that you are welcome to take. (Please try to remember to slip one or two dollars into the donation pipe near the trailhead. The Tahoe Rim Trail Association operates purely on donations from people like you and I)

The trail now is fairly well marked, with very few switchbacks to contend with. At 1.25 miles from the beginning of the trailhead, the spur trail makes a sharp left, doubling back on itself, to the Vista Point. Be on the lookout for this sharp turn, as sometimes the trail post is missing. (This time it is not missing due to vandalism, but from the deer that rub themselves against the post and “crib”, or chew on the Tahoe Rim Trail signs themselves, thus knocking them over). This time, on March 8, there were still patches of snow and mud on the trail in the shaded areas. In one quarter-mile you will arrive at the summit of the Vista Point.

The rock formations resemble something from the Flintstones cartoons from years ago. There are some breathtaking views of the southeast, south and southwest. Spend some time to take it all in…afterall, you just climbed about 800 feet to enjoy the view.

After 30 minutes of photo opportunities and drinking it all in, the spectacular views and mountain fresh air, I decided to go take a look at the lake near Kings Beach.

Once on the beach, the evidence of the drought on Lake Tahoe was more evident. Standing at the waters edge, I looked back on the pier facing, that should have been in about five feet deep of water, was now some 30 or 40 yards from the lake. The outlook is pretty dismal for our water in California for the next year without snow or rain to return the lake to its natural level.

Well, once again, it’s time to hit the road, Jack. Time to get back home as nightfall is drawing near. Some 3½ to 4 hours later, I arrived back home at 2330 or 11:30 PM. That was a long day. Rest assured, I will be sleeping in tomorrow.

Thanks for following along.

See you again on my next Adventure in the Tahoe Wilderness

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